Why You Should Start Meditating—Even If It's Only for 1 Minute a Day
Meditation can have far-reaching benefits for your mind and body, from improved sleep to stress reduction.
By Alyssa Sybertz•
Meditation is seemingly simple—you can do it without investing in any fancy equipment or breaking into a sweat—but that doesn’t mean you should discount its many physical and mental benefits. Whether you’re looking to reduce your everyday stress levels or improve your sleeping habits, the benefits of meditation can bolster your overall quality of life.
Here’s how incorporating daily meditations into your routine can help you build a calmer, more present life.
Before we dive into the benefits of meditation, it’s important to understand what exactly this mindfulness practice is (and what it isn’t).
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that focuses on awareness, calms the mind, and connects you to your inner self. Clearing your mind of any stressors or tasks on your to-do list, meditation is all about being present, anchoring your focus, slowing your stream of thoughts, and checking in with yourself.
In the past, you might’ve assumed that meditation requires sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat with a completely blank mind. But in reality, you don’t have to silence your thoughts—you can simply acknowledge them and let them pass by. Plus, there’s actually a lot of freedom when it comes to meditation.
You can do guided mindfulness meditations, like the ones on the Peloton App, or you can opt for self-guided meditations, using your breath or a mantra as an anchor for your focus. Want to fit meditation into your existing routine? Focus on your breathing while you’re sitting at your desk or pay special attention to the rhythm of your steps while strolling around the block. (We love a good walking meditation!)
There’s also no minimum amount of time required to meditate; You can do it for 60 seconds, five minutes, or 20 minutes—whatever works best for you. The most important thing is that for the duration of your meditation, you don’t dwell on thoughts about the work assignment you have due or what you’re going to cook for dinner. You’re simply taking time to breathe.
How Does Meditation Benefit Your Mind and Body?
Meditation is a technique for relaxation, stress reduction, increased self-awareness, and personal growth. Needless to say, the benefits of meditation on the mind and body are far-reaching. "Meditation changes your brain," says Aditi Shah, Peloton yoga and meditation instructor. "It trains your attentional skills, and helps you to develop a more equanimous relationship with your emotions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. In addition, some studies show that regular meditation can create a pattern of greater positive, approach-oriented emotional states."
Here’s a deep dive into the benefits of meditation.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Feeling stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Meditation can help you manage racing thoughts and heavy emotions. After all, one of the biggest benefits of meditation is its ability to improve your mental and emotional health.
Many people seek out meditation as a stress-management tool, and for good reason. Meditation can induce a relaxation response in the mind and body that slows your speed of thoughts, regulates your breathing, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and reduces muscle tension.
Being in this deep relaxation state can even lower the level of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are associated with inflammation and can contribute to other stress-related conditions.
Supports Mental Health
By lowering stress levels and calming your mind, meditation can also alleviate some symptoms of anxiety and depression. By making non-judgemental observations about your thoughts and emotions while meditating, you can get better at regulating your emotional reactivity. Over time, meditation can lead to improved emotional stability and resilience.
Meditation is a workout for your brain, and with some practice, it can enhance your cognitive skills. Here’s how a regular meditation practice can improve your brain health.
Helps with Focus and Concentration
Dealing with brain fog or scattered thoughts? Everyday distractions can make it challenging to concentrate, but even a brief meditation session can help you focus and improve your attention span.
Meditation trains your mind to use your breath as an anchor. It also encourages you to observe passing thoughts without judgment and release them. Repeating this process over time can sharpen concentration skills, improve memory, and increase productivity.
"Your brain has the ability to change and adapt," Aditi explains. "This quality is called neuroplasticity. By practicing meditation—focusing on one thing and then rerouting yourself back to this focus over and over again—you're changing your brain in a way that helps it to strengthen that muscle of focus. So basically meditation helps you to bounce back from distractions, and to do it with less stress."
Strengthens Cognitive Skills
Meditation can improve memory function and cognition. A study published in 2018 found that a group of 18 long-term meditators had significantly improved attention, memory, and cognitive flexibility than a control group that had never meditated. So, reducing the clutter in your brain can actually make it sharper.
Helps with Goal Visualization
In addition to encouraging accountability and consistency, meditation reduces stress and other mental barriers that hinder progress. It promotes a more positive and determined mindset, which can help you set achievable goals and visualize yourself hitting them. Whether you repeat goal-centered mantras (such as, “I will run 10K today”) or imagine yourself completing that 10K run, meditation helps you set your sights on what you want to achieve.
Physical Health Benefits
While you can’t exactly think your way to perfect health, research shows that meditation has the ability to affect your body on a cellular level. So, let’s get into the physical health benefits of meditation.
Meditation can enhance breathwork, increase productivity, and improve focus—all factors that contribute to better workout form and technique. A study published in 2020 found that a five-week mindfulness practice was linked to improved endurance and cognitive functions in university athletes. By deepening the mind-body connection, meditation also helps lower performance-related anxiety or jitters, allowing for a calmer, more effective exercise session or work presentation.
Similarly, meditating before a workout can get you in the zone. It’s a great way to relax your mind, release any muscle tension, and focus. Plus, it’s an opportunity to check in with your body and make any necessary adjustments to your workout plan.
Since meditation can decrease cortisol levels and quell anxious thoughts, it’s an excellent tool to prepare the body for rest and can even combat insomnia. By evoking a relaxation response, meditation can help counteract racing, vivid thoughts that often accompany sleep disorders and anxiety. Meditation trains the mind to slow down mental activity and release any tension. In doing so, it places you into a more restful state and allows you to fall asleep more easily.
If you prefer to work out in the evenings, you can use meditation to wind down, recover, and rest after a sweat session. After physically exerting yourself, meditation helps release muscle tension and calm your mind and body.
Builds a Strong Mind-Body Connection
The more you meditate, the more in tune you’ll become with your body. You’ll identify which muscles are tight and how your breath sounds when you’re relaxed. This valuable information translates to your workouts, too.
Maybe you’ll notice that you’re putting too much weight on the Peloton Bike’s handlebars and make a point to soften your grip. Or, maybe you’ll spend a couple extra minutes stretching your right quad after feeling some tightness. The point being: If you locate areas of discomfort or strength, you can give them special attention.
Having mind-body awareness can help you work out more effectively. Meditative workouts, which quiet outside distractions to focus on the connection between your brain and your body, combine the best of both worlds.
Breathwork keeps you in the present moment, making it the foundation of meditation and mindfulness. It also comes into play when you exercise, as it’s paramount to your performance and can even help you reduce side stitches. Practicing your breathing also teaches you when to increase cadence or distance during cardio workouts or bump the number of reps or weights you use during strength training sessions.
Regulating your breathing is crucial outside of the gym, too. Steady, even breathing can help you manage stressful moments, and meditation is the perfect opportunity to practice tapping into that intentional breathwork.
It might seem counterintuitive that meditation, a practice centered around slowing your thoughts and focusing, can give you more energy, but it’s true. In a study published by the University of Waterloo in a 2017 issue of Mindfulness, 31 participants had improved energy levels after meditating for 25 minutes (25 minutes of Hatha yoga boosted energy levels even more). Building in some time to meditate and center yourself before your next workout can help you show up ready to go.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Mindfulness practices can moderately lower blood pressure levels (though scientists need to conduct more research before drawing concrete conclusions). However, existing research shows that meditation can supplement a healthy diet, exercise routine, and other factors in helping to decrease blood pressure.
Meditation Resources and Tools
You can start meditating anytime, anywhere—without any special training or guidance. So if you’re eager to start your practice, go for it. However, learning the basics and understanding the different meditation styles may be a more effective approach. That way, you won’t be stuck wondering if you’re doing it correctly.
On the Peloton App, meditation classes are separated by focus. Start with the Meditation Basics classes, which give overviews of meditation tips and styles along with expert advice about how to set yourself up for a comfortable, peaceful practice.
Once you have a handle on the basics, you can explore different types of meditation. Regardless of whether you want to meditate to relax before bed, set goals, take a breather from your workday, or focus before or after a workout, there’s a class for you.
And if you’re hoping to make meditation a consistent part of your routine, sign up for a meditation program on the Peloton App. Join Aditi for a three-week Intro to Meditation program, or take The Power of Sleep, a two-week sleep-focused meditation program led by Peloton instructor Ross Rayburn.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.